Critics Consensus: Terminator, Night Are So-So Sequels
Plus, Dance Flick is rhythmically challenged.
This week at the movies, we've got deadly machines (Terminator Salvation, starring Christian Bale and Sam Worthington); historical hysterics (Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, starring Ben Stiller and Amy Adams); and dance fever (Dance Flick, starring Damon Wayans Jr. and Craig Wayans). What do the critics have to say?
With Terminator Salvation, director McG has brought the venerable sci-fi/action series back to the screen, with plenty of chases, explosions, and yes, machines. But critics say he's forgotten the key ingredient that made the originals so compelling (besides Arnold, of course) -- the human factor. Christian Bale is John Connor, leading the human resistance against Skynet, which has conquered our dystopian planet with its armies of Terminators. The pundits say the action sequences are well handled, but the performances are middling, and the story inspires little emotional investment. Salvation is the worst-reviewed entry in the Terminator franchise. (Check out this week's Total Recall, in which we count down Bale's best-reviewed films, and Jen Gets Terminated, in which RT editor Jen Yamato provides her take on every film in the franchise.)
Night at the Museum was a big hit with audiences (if not with reviewers), so a sequel was inevitable. And the result, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, is bigger and better than the first, while still overdosing on comic mayhem. Ben Stiller returns as hapless night watchman Larry Daley, whose pals at the Museum of Natural History have been inadvertently shipped to the Smithsonian in Washington, where they're threatened by such baddies as Al Capone and Napoleon; fortunately, Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) is on hand to help. The pundits say this Night is funnier and more madcap than its predecessor, but it's essentially a series of loosely connected gags, with precious little discipline to make it work as a whole, and it squanders a veritable all-star team of comedic talent.
Dance Flick is yet another spoof of contemporary cinematic tropes, a subgenre that has been critically ravaged in recent years. However, the critics find Dance Flick to be one of the better recent entries - which is hardly a glowing recommendation. Featuring a veritable army of Wayans in front of and behind the camera, Dance Flick aims to score laughs by mining the rich comic vein of such deathless classics as Save the Last Dance, Step Up, and High School Musical. And the pundits say the Wayans' relentless energy is good for a few chuckles, but overall, Dance Flick is essentially a scattershot collection of gags that only occasionally hit their targets.
Also opening this week in limited release:
- Burma VJ, which compiles footage from video journalists' chronicles of living conditions in dictatorial Myanmar, is at 92 percent.
- Kabei: Our Mother, a delicate drama about a woman's efforts to keep her family together in the midst of World War II, is at 88 percent.
- O'Horten, an absurdist Norwegian comedy about a retired train engineer, is at 84 percent.
- The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story, a doc about the acrimonious relationship between the siblings who crafted some of Disney's most memorable movie music, is at 83 percent.
- Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight, a doc about the graphic designer who co-founded New York Magazine and created the iconic "I (heart) New York" logo, is at 83 percent.
- Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience, staring Sasha Grey as a high-end call girl who offers her clients a quasi-relationship, is at 72 percent.
- Easy Virtue, starring Jessica Biel and Colin Firth in an adaptation of a Noel Coward play about the shakeup caused by a posh Brit's marriage to an American racecar driver, is at 67 percent.